How to add all those cities

July 3, 2008

Here’s the big challenge: so much of the USA is filled with small and medium sized towns that there isn’t a good way to organize them, and that makes it difficult to create a hyper local website. But, the corresponding problem in reverse, and one that newspapers are now grappling with, is that regional and localized websites dont work either. In other words, no matter how complete a site is for a city or region,  it wont work unless it becomes scalable for the whole country.

It is a message that the country’s newspapers haven’t quite realized, and they keep throwing money into creating more, and more useless, local websites, that are really nothing more than their newspaper put online with a few more buttons, and the addition of a directory of local restaurants.

We have the same problem, and we’ve tried to resolve it in two steps. The first step was to create a table of places in the USA on the right hand side of each of the screens with US cities. But, we realized early on that the number of cities was too big to include all of them, so we limited it to cities with populations over 20,000. There are about 2,300 of these in the USA. Craigslist and Yelp and other sites have just a small fraction of the toal cities.

Then, we started to get some business in even smaller towns, and we had a problem. If we just continued to add new cities to the table for each state, it would continue to grow and become unusable. But, we couldn’t just choose an arbitrary number to use a cut-off for what to include and leave out. So, if you look at the updated table, and in particular if you go to the state of Minnesota, you can see what we do. We’ve separated everything into two categories. First, cities with the 20,000+ population. Second, using another color, these cities plus smaller cities as they are added on by users or by us. We couldn’t just dump a full list of cities on the site, since the number is huge. We have to rely on user generated content going forward to do this for us. I think the plan is correct, and now we’ll see if over time this works out the way we have planned.

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